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Nomadland is an US drama film, directed and written by Chloé Zhao. It is based on the 2017 novel, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. It stars Frances McDormand and David Strathairn, with real-life nomads Linda May, Charlene Swankie, and Bob Wells, also appearing in the film. A woman in her sixties who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.

The film received critical acclaim and won many awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Chloé Zhao, at the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice Awards and Academy Awards.


In 2011, Fern loses her job after the US Gypsum plant in Empire, Nevada shuts down; she worked there for years along with her husband, who has recently died. Fern decides to sell most of her belongings and purchase a van to live in and travel the country searching for work. She takes a seasonal job at an Amazon fulfillment center through the winter.

Linda, a friend and co-worker, invites Fern to visit a desert rendezvous in Arizona organized by Bob Wells, which provides a support system and community for fellow nomads. Fern initially declines but changes her mind as the weather turns cold, and she struggles to find work in the area. At the rendezvous, Fern meets fellow nomads and learns basic survival and self-sufficiency skills for the road.

When Fern's van blows a tire, she visits the van of a nearby nomad named Swankie to ask for a ride into town to buy a spare. Swankie chastises Fern for not being prepared and invites her to learn more road survival skills; they become good friends. Swankie tells Fern about her cancer diagnosis and shortened life expectancy and her plan to make good memories on the road rather than waste away in a hospital. They eventually part ways.

Fern later takes a job as a camp host at the Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands National Park, where she runs into David, another nomad she met and danced with back at the desert community. David is working temporarily at Badlands National Park, but when he falls ill, Fern visits him at the hospital where he has had emergency surgery. The two of them later take restaurant jobs at Wall Drug in South Dakota. One night David's adult son visits the restaurant looking for him, informing David that his wife is pregnant and asking him to meet his grandchild. David is hesitant, but Fern encourages him to go. David suggests that she come with him, but she declines.

Fern takes a new job at a sugar beet processing plant, but her van breaks down, and she cannot afford the repairs. Unable to borrow money, she visits her sister's family at their home in California. Her sister lends her the money. She questions why Fern was never around in their lives and why Fern stayed in Empire after her husband died, but she tells Fern she is brave to be so independent. Fern later visits David and his son's family; she learns that David has decided to stay with them long-term. He admits feelings for her and invites her to stay with him permanently in a guest house, but she decides to leave after only a few days and head to the ocean.

Fern returns to her seasonal Amazon job and later revisits the Arizona rendezvous. There she learns that Swankie has died, and she and the other nomads pay tribute to her life. Fern opens up with Bob about her loving relationship with her late husband, and Bob shares the story of his adult son's recent suicide. Bob espouses the view that goodbyes are not final in the nomad community as its members always promise to see each other again "down the road."

Sometime later, Fern returns to the nearly-abandoned town of Empire to dispose of the belongings she has been keeping in a storage unit. She visits the factory and the home she shared with her husband before hitting the road again.


  • Frances McDormand as Fern
  • David Strathairn as David
  • Linda May as Linda
  • Charlene Swankie as Swankie
  • Bob Wells as Bob


Nomadland premiered at virtual screenings by Film at Lincoln Center taking place on December 4, 2020. The film was released by Searchlight Pictures in select IMAX theaters in the United States on January 29, 2021, and then later simultaneously in select theaters, drive-in theaters and digitally on Hulu on February 19.[1]

Internationally, the film is also available on Disney+ under the Star content hub. The release date on Star was April 9, 2021 in Canada, and April 30, 2021 in most other countries where the Star hub is available.




  1. Lattanzio, Ryan (January 14, 2021). "‘Nomadland’ to Be Released on Hulu and in Theaters February 19". IndieWire.

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